Québec-based Venmar Ventilation ULC is applying its considerable expertise to help the medical sector. In just 14 days, a multidisciplinary team developed a negative pressure device for hospitals and nursing homes. The device can also be used to convert hotel rooms into temporary hospital spaces, should the need arise.
“When the COVID-19 crisis began, we contacted the ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux (MSSS) to find out how we could help,” said Maxime Gervais, R&D Engineer specialized in energy recovery. “Negative pressure machines are currently in great demand and even out of stock at many suppliers. The Centre intégré universitaire de santé et de services sociaux de la Mauricie-et-du-Centre-du-Québec (CIUSSS MCQ) approached us to develop a negative pressure device, for which the need is urgent.”
A prototype in just two weeks
“We had never developed this type of product before, but we have all the in-house expertise required. Handling air is something we understand—it’s in our blood,” said Samuel McNicoll, R&D Manager, Energy Recovery at Venmar. “Given the current situation and the slowdown in our operations, some of our employees have been working from home. Our research and development team at the Drummondville Centre of Excellence was quickly organized. In 14 days, they developed the product, purchased the parts, built the devices, tested them and are having them certified. We successfully developed the device in only two weeks working from home and at our facilities. That is an exceptionally short time to come up with a prototype.”
The process for developing a new product usually takes between 12 and 18 months.
“What our team achieved is quite a feat. It showcases Venmar’s strengths, as well as our ingenuity and flexibility,” McNicoll said.
Depressurized rooms thanks to Venmar Ventilation ULC
The negative pressure device is designed to ensure that 100 per cent of the air in a COVID-19 patient’s room is drawn into the device and filtered to prevent the virus from spreading to other unprotected areas of the hospital.
Venmar Ventilation ULC has produced five units so far. A team from Underwriters Laboratories of Canada (ULC) was at the plant on Thursday to certify the device. With the certification now issued, the machines will be delivered to Hôpital Sainte-Croix in Drummondville. Things are going at a fast pace.
“At this point, we have no intention of marketing the negative pressure device. Our goal is simply to put our valuable expertise to good use,” McNicoll said. “Designing this prototype has made us aware that the industrial-type negative pressure machines hospitals are using during the crisis are ill-suited to a medical setting. The experience has given us a better understanding of this new market, including the issues involved and opportunities that may present themselves to us. We are both proud and impressed to see what our team was able to achieve. Anything is possible with skill and determination. Having acquired new expertise during this project, our team would certainly be pleased to produce more devices for the health system.”
About Venmar Ventilation ULC
Founded in 1978, Venmar Ventilation ULC is proud to be a North American leader in the indoor air quality industry. The company consistently innovates in the field of ventilation thanks to an ongoing commitment to investing in research and development. Venmar joined the Broan‑NuTone LLC Group in 1995. In 2016, our flagship Québec company became the Research and Innovation Centre of Excellence for three of the Broan-NuTone Group’s core product categories: fresh-air systems, kitchen ventilation and central vacuums. Venmar is proud to offer all North American homes a complete range of products marketed under a range of brand names that include Broan, NuTone, Best and vänEE. The company has 450 employees across Canada.